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Near Year’s Resolutions and You

Happy 2019! It’s a new year, which means new challenges and new opportunities. As a high school student, you certainly have a lot to do over the next 12 months. No matter what lies ahead, I want to help you start your year on the right foot.

Let’s talk resolutions!

Should You Set a Resolution?

You probably know the story by heart: a well-meaning person sets a new year’s resolution only to give up on it within a month, week, or even a day. With so many people unable to keep their resolutions – and feeling bad about themselves when they do – does it make sense to make one at all?

First off, no, there’s nothing inherently wrong about setting a new year’s resolution. It’s just that for most people, they set their sights too high. I’m going to the gym every day isn’t an impossible task, but for someone who never works out, that goal is too big. Missing a day makes people feel like they failed, and then they give up entirely.

Let’s make sure that you don’t fall into the same trap by picking a reasonable resolution and seeing in through to the end.

Picking a Resolution 

You’ll have different priorities depending on whether you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior. That said, your resolution should relate to one or more academic or personal milestones the next 12 months will bring. Maybe you’re taking the SAT/ACT for the first time or going on your first college tour. How can you tie these events into a resolution? Here’s a sample resolution for each grade level:

  • Freshman: I will select a new extracurricular activity this year or continue one that I enjoy.
  • Sophomore: I will go on at least two college tours this summer.
  • Junior: I will take three ACT/SAT practice tests before attempting the real thing.
  • Senior: I will maintain my grades until graduation.

Each of these resolutions requires a different set of steps. However, no matter which resolution you set, achieving it boils down to the same strategies.

Achieving Your Resolution

Break Up Your Resolution Into Smaller Goals

If you want to increase your chances of success with your new year’s resolution, break your goal into smaller, more manageable goals. Let’s use the same resolutions from the previous section as an example.

  • Freshman: 1. I will write down what I like and don’t like about my current extracurricular activity. 2. I will research what new activities I can join this semester. 3. I will decide on whether to change to a new activity or keep my current one.
  • Sophomore: 1. I will research at least 10 colleges by exploring their websites. 2. I will talk to my family about which ones they think would be a good fit. 3. We will go on the tours this summer.
  • Junior: 1. I will pick an ACT/SAT study guide to use for my test prep. 2. I will see if I can find a free one at the library or a used copy online. 3. I will take three practice tests.
  • Senior: 1. I will continue to prepare for tests and assessments. 2. I will ask teachers how I can maintain my grades during this crucial time. 3. I will research how having good grades as a senior can qualify me for merit-based scholarships.

If you set the same resolution as in the last section, you may not follow these steps exactly. Everyone is different and may need extra or modified steps. The point is that you need to break down your big resolution into 3-5 smaller pieces.

Set Dates for Completion

Once you have your smaller goals, give each one its own ‘due date.’ Keep in mind that even if you and your best friend have the same resolution and goals, you may have different completion dates. No one is the same, and you want to ensure that you give yourself enough time while still completing everything by the final deadline.

Final Thoughts

You’ll have a lot to do this year, but give your resolution the time and attention it deserves. Yes, it’ll be a lot of hard work. However, when you see it through, you’ll be one step closer to attending your dream college.

Good luck in the coming year!

Exploring Non-Traditional Colleges

What if your child isn’t a traditional learner? What if following the path of every other college freshman turns them off? Not to worry, there are colleges that cater to the needs of students who want a more independent academic experience.

St. John’s College with campuses in both Annapolis and Santa Fe offers only one major, Liberal Arts. They base the curriculum on a “Great Books Program” and they have few tests and lots of class discussions. The website boasts that it grants one of the most affordable tuitions at $35,000 per year.

How about Hampshire College, a member of the Five College Consortium including Smith, Mount Holyoke, Amherst, and the University of Massachusetts. At Hampshire there are no grades and the students can design their own concentrations of study (no majors either). It’s a great choice for creative, self-directed students.

Antioch College (Yellow Springs, Ohio) requires that the students hold down “full-time co-op jobs” switching between work and study. This can be great for students who need to support themselves and still wish to get a college degree.

College of the Ozarks is another college that requires the students to work. This time in exchange for tuition. The entire campus is run on solar power and 30% of their cafeteria food is grown on campus. It’s a liberal arts college that is also Christian based.

Then there is Colorado College which seems ideal for the outdoor student who would like to study one subject at a time for an extended amount of time, (three weeks) then have a week off to explore the great unknown.

Cornell College (not Cornell University) in Iowa offers a one class at a time curriculum. And according to their website, the student can immerse themselves in “1 Course x 18 Days x 8 Blocks. The territory we cover is the same as on a semester system. But the path we travel offers an entirely different journey.”

And for something completely different, Hamburger University in Oak Brook, Illinois is run by McDonald’s and based on managerial training. Classes translate into business management credits at other colleges.
It opened in 1961 and every year about 5,000 students graduate from campuses all around the world. China’s division has an admission rate of 1%.

Your student may find an alternative school that feels like home, or after looking at the alternatives, they might prefer a traditional college after all. But this is the time for exploration and with over 3000 colleges and universities in the United States, surely your student will find a school that is right for them.

Can Your Freshman Make it Through the Rest of the Semester?

My daughter was home from college this weekend and she was in heaven. She was grateful for her bed, her home and most importantly her family. She’s met many students with difficult family lives and realized how good hers was. Her revelation made us all grateful.

At the end of the weekend, it was hard for her to imagine a nine-hour bus ride back to college where she would be crammed into a small room with two other girls. Exams are looming and the food in the cafeteria is starting to all taste the same.

“What would your life be like if you didn’t go back?” I asked her when she started to make noises that she couldn’t. She said, she would get a job and then go to community college. She couldn’t finish the sentence without realizing it wasn’t really what she wanted. Yes, being away from home is hard. Especially when everything she has ever known is at home. But I asked her to think about what she wanted for her life and how she was going to get that. She wants to go into politics. So I asked her if she needed to go to college for that career. She agreed she did.

I suggested every time she thought about wanting to be at home, to think about her big goal and know she needs to finish college in order to achieve that. Don’t think about the comfort you are missing at home, but think about the life you will lead in the future. Besides, a comfortable life would be a boring life and I know if she stayed home and did not go back to college she’d be bored in about a week.

 

So how do you help your college freshmen get through the rest of the semester?

  • Remind them that Winter break is only three weeks away
  • Remind them that their job right now is to focus on schoolwork
  • Plan a couple of fun activities for winter break, a trip or something local. Put that special event on the calendar or buy tickets for it now, so they have something to look forward to
  • Perhaps start planning a community service day for when they return. Visit a nursing home or homeless shelter
  • Read one of the books they have been assigned so that you can discuss it with them when they return
  • Plan a day with you and your college student, lunch, mani-pedi, bike riding, tossing a football. Something where they get your full attention for the whole day. You will love this too because in a couple of years they may be studying abroad during winter break or off vacationing with friends

I believe freshman are confused as to where they belong. They are living between home and dorm. Let them know that when they are home, nothing has changed, you can still do the things as a family you used to. Comfort and routine are what they crave. Adventure is what they need.

Decisions, Decisions: Early Decision, Early Action, Instant Decision or Regular Decision

When it comes to your journey to college, you have to answer many important questions:

  • Public or private school?
  • Small or big school?
  • How much can I afford?
  • Which scholarships should I apply to?
  • And so on.

Answering each of these questions brings you one step closer to attending college. However, one of the final questions you must answer may have the most significant impact on where you go to school:

  • Should I apply early decision, early action, instant decision, or regular decision?

Yes, there are many choices of how you can apply to college, and each one comes with a unique set of rules and regulations. In this article, we’ll examine each type of application so you can choose those right for you.

Early Decision

 As the name implies, early decision requires you to decide where you want to go to college before most application deadlines. You apply to one school 1-2 months before regular decision, and you can expect a decision in about six weeks. You may already know the catch: if the school accepts you, you have to go there. No, they won’t drag you off to jail if you don’t attend, but when you send in your early decision application, you’re telling the college that, “Yes, I will 100% go here if you accept me.”

Students who apply early decision have a slightly higher chance of receiving an acceptance letter. Don’t be fooled; schools accept a higher percentage of early decision applicants because these applicants represent the cream of the crop. Finally, schools may decide to push some early decision applicants into the regular decision pile to review their applications again between January and April.

Who should apply early decision?

If you 100% know deep down – you feel it in your bones – that you want to attend a specific college, by all means, apply early decision. And if you get in, more power to you. With that significant weight off your shoulders, you can celebrate during winter break and have a less stressful spring semester.

And if you shouldn’t get in – it happened to me, too – take a moment to grieve before refocusing your energy on your remaining applications.  

Early Action

Want to know if a school will accept you early but not 100% sure you want to attend? Then early action is for you!

Schools that use early action typically have the same application deadlines as schools that use early decision. You receive a decision around the same time as if you had applied early decision, too. But unlike early decision, applying early action does not constitute an agreement to attend a school if it accepts you. Also, you have until May 1st to make your final decision.

Who should apply early action?

You should apply early action if there is a school you love, but you’re not entirely sure you want to attend. Also, consider early action if you want to see how your regular decision applications turn out.

Instant Decision

Don’t let the name fool you. Instant decision takes a little more time than a cup of instant ramen. It’s more like speed dating. Here’s how the process works for some schools:

  • You gather all application materials.
  • You take them to a college on its decision day, also known as D-Day.
  • The college makes an admission decision that same day.

Like with early action, you still have until May 1stto select a college or university. Compared to early decision, early action, and regular decision, instant decision is rare. None of the schools you apply to may use it.

Who should apply instant decision?

Consider instant decision a good choice you want to know your results as soon as possible. D-Day can feel like a gauntlet, however, especially for schools that use interviews, so be ready for the stress. 

Regular Decision

Regular decision represents the bulk of applications colleges and universities receive throughout December and into early January. Schools spend the spring curating their next year’s freshman class before sending out decisions around April 1st. Accepted students have until May 1stto accept an offer.  Schools put some regular decision applicants on a waitlist: these students may not find out until May or June if a school accepts them.

Who should apply regular decision? 

No matter who you are, you should plan to apply regular decision to at least three schools. It’s your best bet to receive one or more acceptances.

Final Thoughts

Applying to college has never been more competitive, and you may think that applying one way or another may give you an advantage. If I were you, I’d push these thoughts out of my mind. Apply early decision/action to your top choice and apply regular decision for the rest of the schools on your shortlist. After that, all you can do is sit back, wait, and continue doing your best in high school until graduation day.

Top 10 Private Colleges in The United States

Thinking about applying to college?  MyKlovr has provided a list of the top ten private colleges in the United States.

1. Harvard University

Medical School at Harvard University.

Location: Cambridge, MA

Total Enrollment: 20,324

Acceptance Rate: 5%

Fun Facts

Harvard University was founded on September 8, 1636, and named after its first benefactor, John Harvard.

The first graduation ceremony for Harvard University was in 1642, honoring nine graduates.

2. Stanford University

Overview of Stanford University campus.

Location: Bay Area, CA

Total Enrollment: 16,914

Acceptance Rate: 5%

Fun Facts

Standford University was founded on November 11, 1885.

Stanford University has six schools, Business, Earth Energy and Environmental Sciences, Education, Engineering, Humanities and Sciences, Law, and Medicine.

 

3. Yale University

Harkness Tower at Yale University.

Location: New Haven, CT

Total Enrollment: 12,458

Acceptance Rate: 6%

Fun Facts

Yale University was established on October 9, 1701.

Yale is home to the oldest collegiate newspaper, the Yale Daily News.

 

 

The table below shows the other schools on the top ten list.

RankingSchoolType of SchoolTotal EnrollmentLocationAcceptance RateSetting
4Princeton UniversityUniversity8,181Princeton, NJ7%Suburban
5Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyUniversity11,376Boston, MA8%Urban
6University of PennsylvaniaUniversity21,826Philidelphia, PA9%Urban
7Columbia UniversityUniversity25,084New York, NY6%Urban
8Brown UniversityUniversity9,781Providence, RI9%Urban
9California Institute of TechnologyUniversity2,240Pasadena, CA8%Suburban
10Duke UniversityUniversity15,928Durham, NC11%Suburban

 

MyKlovr created this top ten list by taking the average of the rankings from The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, College Raptor, Education Corner, and Niche.

Stay Productive This Thanksgiving Break

Thanksgiving break is soon upon us. Depending on your school or district’s policies, you may receive two days, three days, or a whole week off of school. Between stuffing your face and watching football, the week doesn’t lend itself to productivity.

When I was a teacher, district policy forbade teachers from assigning homework over Thanksgiving break. As such shackles no longer bind me, I’m going to assign you just a bit of homework for you to accomplish over break.

In this article, we’ll look at different things high school freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors can accomplish during their time off school. And because I want to make sure you have a chance to relax this Thanksgiving, none of my assignments should take more than two hours to complete.

If You’re a Freshman

As a high school freshman, you don’t have to worry about high-stakes standardized tests and applying to college just yet. Instead of research or test prep, I want you to spend your two hours performing some self-reflection that should help you with the big decisions you’ll face in the next few years.

For each of the following bullet points, I want you to journal a one-page reply:

  • Which subject is your favorite? What about it do you like the most?
  • In which class do you have the most trouble? Do you need extra help to succeed?
  • Do you work better by yourself or with others?
  • What careers (even if they’re pie-in-the-sky) do you think are interesting or would be worth pursuing one day?

What I want you to do is tuck these answers away. During Thanksgiving break for the next two years – when you’re a sophomore and junior — revisit these questions to identify how your preferences have changed. By the time you start seriously researching potential colleges during your junior year, you’ll be better prepared to select those that best match your interests and goals.

If You’re a Sophomore

Sophomore year is the time when you dip your toe into the college application pond. It can seem a bit overwhelming (that’s natural), but you can accomplish something this Thanksgiving break that’ll both reduce your stress and start your college journey off on the right foot.

For your two hours of homework, I want you to research potential colleges and select 2-3 to tour between now and the end of summer break before your junior year. Discuss options with your family, as they’ll likely come with you on these tours and play a significant role in your college decision-making process. 

If You’re a Junior

As a junior, this is the last full year of grades colleges will see when you apply next year. That makes your performance on mid-terms, which are only a few weeks away, more important than those you took in your freshman and sophomore years.

During the break, I want you to set aside two hours to study your most challenging subject. It doesn’t matter what it is. You need not only the practice but also the chance to identify the topics giving you the most trouble. Once you identify them, you can master them over the next few weeks with your teachers’ help and other resources (e.g., Khan Academy) they recommend.

If You’re a Senior

Your college application deadlines are coming up fast. For any remaining applications, here’s what I want you to do:

  • Reread all application requirements and make a checklist for each school.
  • Check off what you have completed.
    • Maintain these lists until you send off your last application.
  • Read all of your essays at least once. Make appropriate revisions.
    • If you’re going to visit relatives this Thanksgiving, it never hurts to ask an aunt or uncle to critique one of your essays.

Final Thoughts

I have one last piece of homework for everyone reading this to accomplish between now and the end of Thanksgiving break: find some quality time to relax. The three weeks between Thanksgiving and winter break are full to the brim with studying, tests, and anxiety. Recharge your batteries now so you can face these challenges successfully.

Top 15 Colleges in California

There is an overwhelming number of options for high school students to choose from when applying to college. In California alone, there are 264 4-year colleges.

For this reason, myKlovr has generated a list of the top 15 colleges in California. Take a look to learn more about these featured colleges.

 

1. Stanford University

Overview of Stanford University campus.

Location: Bay Area, CA

Total Enrollment: 16,914

Acceptance Rate: 5%

Fun Facts

Standford University was founded on November 11, 1885.

Stanford University has six schools, Business, Earth Energy and Environmental Sciences, Education, Engineering, Humanities and Sciences, Law, and Medicine.

 

2. California Institute of Technology

Robert A. Millikan Memorial Library at Caltech.

Location: Pasadena, CA

Total Enrollment: 2,240

Acceptance Rate: 8%

Fun Facts

California Institute of Technology was founded in 1891.

The mascot of Caltech is a beaver, to honor natures engineers.

 

3. Pomona College

Mason Hall, an academic building at Pomona College.

Location: Claremont, CA

Total Enrollment: 1,703

Acceptance Rate: 10%

Fun Facts

Pomona College was founded in 1887.

An alumnus of Pomona college is Art Clokey, the creator of Gumby.

 

 

The table below shows the other schools on the top fifteen list.

RankingSchoolType of SchoolTotal EnrollmentLocationAcceptance RateSetting
4Claremont McKenna CollegeLiberal Arts1,347Claremont, CA9%Suburban
5Harvey Mudd CollegeLiberal Arts829Claremont, CA13%Suburban
6University of California, BerkeleyUniversity40,174Berkeley, CA16%Urban
7University of California, Los AngelesUniversity44,497Los Angeles, CA18%Urban
8University of Southern CaliforniaUniversity43,871Los Angeles, CA17%Urban
9Scripps CollegeLiberal Arts1,057Claremont, CA30%Suburban
10Pitzer CollegeLiberal Arts1,089Claremont, CA14%Suburban
11University of California, DavisUniversity36,441David, CA42%Urban
12University of California, San DiegoUniversity34,979La Jolla, CA36%Urban
13University of California, Santa BarbaraUniversity24,346Santa Barbara, CA36%Suburban
14Santa Clara UniversityUniversity8,422Santa Clara, CA48%Urban
15Occidental CollegeLiberal Arts2,062Los Angeles, CA46%Urban

 

MyKlovr created this top fifteen list by taking the average of the rankings from The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, College Raptor, Education Corner, and Niche.

College Admissions & Demonstrated Interest

Students have a lot of things to get done for college applications. Putting together the perfect application for your dream school isn’t the only thing to do during this time, and the perfect application is not the only thing college admissions officers are looking for.

College admissions officers are starting to look at students’ demonstrated interest (or lack thereof). Demonstrated interest (in regards to college) is simply, going the extra mile to show true interest beyond the standard application.

The remainder of this article will discuss what demonstrated interest is in the traditional way, what it’s starting to look like with the growth of social media, and why this all matters.

 

Demonstrated Interest

Here is a short list of ways to show a college admissions officer your demonstrated interest.

  • Campus Tours
  • Interviews
  • College Fairs
  • Following up/sending thank you letters (when appropriate)

If you want to learn more, click here.

 

Changes in Demonstrated Interest – Social Media

College admissions officers are starting to look at applicants’ social media activity.

Why social media?

Answer: Social media is a great way for college admissions officers to get a glimpse into who you are based on what you follow and ‘like’.

Generally, people follow things on social media that they are interested in. Considering this, if a college admissions officer sees that you are following one or more social media accounts affiliated with the college, they will consider you to be very interested in the college and in turn, more likely to accept an offer.

Below are the results of a survey conducted by myKlovr asking its users if they would feel comfortable if college admissions officers checked their social media.

 

Out of 188 myKlovr users, 11.7% say “I’d love them to do that”, 69% say “I’m an open book, nothing to hide!”, 6.9% say “sure but let me edit first”, and 11.7% say “oh no please don’t”.

 

Why do College Admissions Officers Care About Demonstrated Interest?

Demonstrated interest shows a college admissions officer how likely you are to attend the college if you are accepted. Students who visit the campus, talk to the college representatives at college fairs, follow the college’s social media accounts, have a higher chance of accepting an offer.

College admissions officers are also looking for those students who are not only interested in their college on paper (college applications) but are actively going out of their way to learn more about the college.

Think about it this way, it is standard to send in an application, transcripts, test scores, and an essay. Demonstrated interest is going above and beyond what is required for college admissions which ultimately demonstrates the level of your genuine interest.

What Causes School Anxiety? (And What You Can Do)

Anxiety plagues just about every high school student. I could easily create an 800-item list of anxiety triggers you and your peers experience every day, but that would be TOO easy. You know, as I think about the innumerable anxiety culprits wandering your high school and the space between your ears (your brain), a few trends emerge. In this article, we’ll look at the big anxiety categories that plague high school students and what you can do to keep your anxiety at a low simmer.

Deadlines

The first thing that came to mind when I started brainstorming this article was deadlines. Just two feet away from my computer is a dry erase whiteboard calendar jam-packed full of them. Just looking at them gives me the jitters.

But unlike you, I have more than a decade of experience juggling multiple deadlines. Experience alone tells me that everything’s going to work out just fine. But alas, you lack such valuable experience. However, just like everything we’ll discuss in this article, there is something you can do TODAY to make deadline anxiety a thing of the past.

What You Can Do

Imagine a guy who pays $50 for a premium all-you-can-eat buffet. Everything looks great, but he only has so much stomach real estate. He decides to eat large portions of just 1-2 items that attract him. Yes, he has a great meal, but he goes home feeling anxious. Did he get his money’s worth? Maybe, just maybe, he should have sampled a little bit of everything.

Believe it or not, beating deadline anxiety has a lot to do with our gourmand.

As an ambitious high school student, you have a ‘buffet’ of deadlines in your future. When you have the option to either work on one assignment for two to three hours or three assignments for one hour each, always choose the latter. That way, you’ll make progress on every single thing. Yes, in both scenarios you’d do the same amount of work, but by ‘sampling’ everything you’ll actually feel that you accomplished more than if you left something untouched.

Assessments of All Shapes and Sizes

High school is full of assessments: ACT/SAT, AP, IB, pop quizzes, exit slips, unit tests, midterms, end-of-year tests, state tests, etc. That’s a lot of assessments to worry about.

Like with deadlines, you consciously know that you’ll do your best, but anxiety still has its talons in you. What to do? 

What You Can Do

Defeating texting anxiety has more to do with mindset rather than any particular action on your part. In a nutshell, you simply need to remember that for the majority of important high school tests, there are second chances, either retakes or the ability to learn from your mistakes and apply your new knowledge toward the next test. Keep this in mind before taking the ACT/SAT and just about every test you take in class.

Student-Teacher Relationships

I didn’t get along with all my teachers in high school, and when I became a teacher, I didn’t get along with all of my students. Let’s say you have a teacher that, for whatever reason, rubs you the wrong way. Going into his or her class feels like a nightmare. Maybe you’ve lost some sleep over it.

What You Can Do 

As there are so many things that can sour a student-teacher relationship, I’m going to shy away from giving specific advice. However, in just about every case, finding a solution begins with asking yourself “Is it me or my teacher who’s at fault?” Be honest and own up to any mistakes that you might have made. In my experience on both sides of the teacher’s desk, you likely did SOMETHING at SOME POINT to widen the rift even if it wasn’t the original cause.

Once you look at things objectively, it’s time to talk to your teacher, preferably before or after school. That may sound scary, but look at it this way: in just about every kind of relationship, better communication leads to a better relationship. It’s as simple as that.

 Your Peers

Bullies, friends who drift away, mean girls, peer pressure…being around other teenagers 7-8 hours a day can sure raise your anxiety. Of course, if you’re anxious because you or someone you know is experiencing physical or psychological harm due to other students, it’s time to let a teacher know. But if your anxiety is more of the general variety, you can still nip peer anxiety in the bud

What You Can Do 

Like with test anxiety, the answer (mostly) involves perspective. First of all, if you’re worried what people other than your closest friends think of you, don’t. That statement should also apply to your friends, but since you’re at a self-conscious age, you might as well be self-conscious only in regards to people you can trust.

In other words, the opinions held by 99.99% of the people you see every day aren’t worth the powder to blow them to heck.

Final Thoughts

Anxiety is a monster, yes. It can’t ever be truly defeated, but if you take some proactive measures, it’ll spend most of its existence trapped in a cage of your own design. If you have a fall break coming up, use that time to evaluate your anxiety triggers and devise a customized plan.

Finally, nothing beats anxiety more than enjoying the fall weather. Happy Halloween!

Top 10 Colleges in New York

Interested in the top colleges in the state of New York? There are over 60 four year colleges to choose from in the state of New York.

MyKlovr has generated a list of the top 10 colleges in the state of New York.

 

1. Columbia University

Butler Library at Columbia University.

Location: New York, NY

Total Enrollment: 25,084

Acceptance Rate: 7%

Fun Facts

Columbia University was established in 1754.

The MGM Studio‘s Lion was inspired by Columbia’s Lion mascot.

 

2. Cornell University

Cornell University campus.

Location: Ithaca, NY

Total Enrollment: 22,319

Acceptance Rate: 15%

Fun Facts

Cornell University was founded on April 27, 1865.

The chicken nugget was created at Cornell University by Robert C. Baker in the 1950s.

 

3. Colgate University

Colgate University hill panorama.

Location: Hamilton, NY

Total Enrollment: 2,890

Acceptance Rate: 27%

Fun Facts

Colgate University was founded in 1819.

The top three career fields of 2017 Colgate University graduates are Business/management, Communications/media, and Consulting.

 

The table below shows the other schools on the top ten list.

RankingSchoolType of SchoolTotal EnrollmentLocationAcceptance RateSetting
4Barnard CollegeLiberal Arts2,588New York, NY17%Urban
5New York University University250,550New York, NY32%Urban
6Hamilton CollegeLiberal Arts1,879Clinton, NY26%Rural
7University of RochesterUniversity11,209Rochester, NY38%Suburban
8Vassar CollegeLiberal Arts2,424Poughkeepsie, NY27%Suburban
9Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and ArtLiberal Arts964New York, NY13%Urban
10Rensselaer Polytechnic InstituteUniversity7,442Troy, NY44%Suburban

MyKlovr created this top ten list by taking the average of the rankings from The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, College Raptor, Education Corner, and Niche.

Works Well with Others: Why Group Projects Matter

It happens every time: your teacher assigns a group project and puts you with someone who contributes little to nothing. “Oh yeah, just put my name on it.” Lazybones gets full credit for doing zilch. The experience makes you think that group projects should have no part of the modern high school experience.

Yes, group projects as we know them need some tweaks. (There are lots of things teachers can do to ensure that everyone participates, but that’s an article just for them.) At their core, though, group projects matter and can play a valuable role in the learning experience.

If you’ve had a few lousy group projects, don’t stop reading just yet. Let me show you how group project success can have some happy side effects for your present and future selves. 

Group Projects Prepare You for Real Life

No matter what you do for a living, your professional success rides on working well with other people. Even I, working from home, always interact with my clients through email and phone calls. Just like at an office, everyone’s success depends on, you guessed it, everyone being on the same page and working together.

Your career might be 8+ years down the road, so here are a few ways that participating in group projects can help you TODAY:

  • “Works well with others” is an excellent line that college admission counselors want to see in a recommendation letter. That’s why I put it in the title!
  • Group work plays a significant role in extracurricular activities and volunteering.
  • Working in groups exposes you to different viewpoints and personality types.

To expand a bit more on that last point, different personality types means that you’ll regularly come across people whose personality types don’t match yours. Though this difference can cause conflict, it’s also a valuable opportunity to build your interpersonal skills.

Group Projects Build Your Interpersonal Skills

Let’s get back to the group member who does nothing. How would you react to this situation? Would you tattle on him, ignore him, try to engage him, or something else entirely? Your first reaction plays a significant role in how that person approaches the rest of the project. Now, don’t blame yourself if that person won’t budge no matter what, but here are some things to do to show your group project meddle and encourage everyone to do their part:

  • Ask everyone what part of the project matches their strengths or interests.
  • Ask for everyone’s input/advice on how the group should accomplish its goal(s).
  • Split into smaller groups. For example, if your group has four people, pair up to divide the project’s responsibilities. That way, no one can ‘fall through the cracks.’

If someone still won’t participate, don’t escalate the situation, but document what each group member contributed (or didn’t) to the final product.

If you’re not a leader, that fine. As long as you’re a team player, you’ve done your part. After all, you still have plenty of time to hone your leadership skills throughout the rest of high school and college.

Before wrapping up, let’s discuss one final piece of the group project puzzle that should help you long after high school graduation. 

Organization

Group projects require more advanced organizational skills than you might need if you tackled the same project on your own. Although you may consider yourself a master organizer, finding yourself having to track others’ progress and keep up with your own work can challenge even the best students.

There’s an easy way to solve this problem, something that works just as well in the classroom as it will in your future work environment. Imagine your group has a project and that you have three class periods to complete it. At the beginning of the project, have everyone set a goal. Someone in the group writes down each goal. At the end of the period, everyone reports back. Just like before, someone writes down every person’s progress. Some people might have worked ahead, others right on target, and others behind. As you repeat this process for days two and three, you can refer back to these notes to suggest quick and effective solutions:

  • Have someone who worked ahead assist someone who’s behind at the beginning of the next class.
  • Ask the people who are behind to finish up their daily goal as homework.

More importantly, by keeping track of everyone’s progress, it’s impossible to be blindsided by someone not pulling their weight.

Final Thoughts

Group projects aren’t perfect, but they teach you plenty of valuable life skills that can both raise your chances of college admission success and prepare you for just about any work environment.

5 Tips for Finding Success in Group Projects

Group projects, some students like them and some do not! There are both advantages and disadvantages to group projects.

A disadvantage of group projects is if one member slacks, the whole group suffers. Sometimes, one person does most of the work, or the final product is not as complete as it could have been because everyone did not give 100%.

Advantages of group projects are seen most in the final results of the project. If all group members worked together and gave 100%, it will show in the final result, and most likely earn a high grade.

A survey was sent out to myKlovr users asking if they love or hate group projects. Out of 267 responses, 45% like group projects, 46% do not like group projects, and 9% are neutral.

 

Bar graph showing myKlovr survey results.

 

To make the most of group projects, no matter what the circumstances, myKlovr has come up with a list of five tips for students to find success when working in group projects.

1. Organization

  • Setting goals within your group will keep everyone on task and allow for the project to be broken up into smaller pieces.
  • Assigning tasks, give everyone something to do, making sure everything that needs to be done will get done.

2. Communication

  • Stay connected via text, e-mail, or group chats (GroupMe) to have a place where you can reach group members easily to keep everyone on the same page.
  • Listening is an important part of communication, quite literally. There is no point in talking to group members if they are not going to listen.
  • Don’t hesitate to speak up if something is not working or someone isn’t pulling their weight. Squashing the problem ASAP will only help the group in the long run.

3. There is no “I” in “team”

  • Work together, one person can not and should not do all the work. A team or group works best when everyone is giving 100%.
  • Everyone has different perspectives and opinions, use this to your group’s advantage.

4. Accountability

  • Taking ownership when you personally have done something wrong can show your respect to your group members and that you are trying to make it better for the future.
  • Showing responsibility for your work/actions will make the group dynamic run smoother.
  • Don’t be afraid to hold your group members responsible for their deadlines and tasks.

5. Learn

  • Always learn something in whatever you do, either from the topic of the assignment or about how you personally work best in groups.
  • Take note of what has worked and what hasn’t, will make your next group project better than the last.
  • Learning skills from group projects will help you in the professional world later on in life.

 

Group projects are important not only for school assignments but for your future as well. If they seem like a burden now, think about what you will learn in the long run, such as communication, teamwork, and accountability.

Participating in group projects prepare students for the working world/college. Similarly, the assignment may not be interesting or someone in the group may not be your favorite person.

The struggles students face when doing group projects do happen in the real world, but never the less, the project must get done.

Top 10 Colleges in The East Coast

Choosing a college can be overwhelming for high school students when there seems to be a never-ending list of options.  Some schools are small, some are big, there are urban campuses, rural campuses, and some schools are private and some are state schools, the list goes on and on.

If you are unsure of where to even apply to, here is a list of the top ten schools on the east coast generated by myKlovr. It can be beneficial to apply to schools that will challenge you academically and personally.

1. Harvard University

Medical School at Harvard University.

Location: Cambridge, MA

Total Enrollment: 20,324

Acceptance Rate: 5%

Fun Facts

Harvard University was founded on September 8, 1636, and named after its first benefactor, John Harvard.

The first graduation ceremony for Harvard University was in 1642, honoring nine graduates.

2. Yale University

Law School at Yale University.

Location: New Haven, CT

Total Enrollment: 12,458

Acceptance Rate: 6%

Fun Facts

Yale University was founded in 1701 and named after Elihu Yale.

The most popular majors at Yale University are Cellular and Molecular Biology, History, Science and Government, and Psychology.

3. Princeton University

Nassau Hall; the oldest building at Princeton University.

Location: Princeton, NJ

Total Enrollment: 8,181

Acceptance Rate: 7%

Fun Facts

Princeton University was founded in 1746 and named after the town the college is located in, Princeton, New Jersey.

The school colors are black and orange and the school mascot is a Tiger.

 

The table below shows the other schools on the top ten list.

RankingSchoolType of SchoolTotal EnrollmentLocationAcceptance RateSetting
4Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyUniversity11,376Boston, MA8%Urban
5Columbia UniversityUniversity25,084New York, NY6%Urban
6Brown UniversityUniversity9,781Providence, RI9%Urban
7Duke UniversityUniversity15,928Durham, NC11%Suburban
8Dartmouth CollegeUniversity6,409Hanover, NH11%Rural
9Cornell UniversityUniversity22,319Ithaca, NY14%Rural
10Williams CollegeLiberal Arts2,134Williamstown, MA18%Rural

MyKlovr created this top ten list by taking the average of the rankings from The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, College Raptor, Education Corner, and Niche.

How to Balance SAT Test Prep With School Schedule

How do you add test prep into an already full schedule of academic classes and extracurriculars? Hopefully during the summer your student established a test prep routine. Maybe using phone apps, or an online test prep program, or even a test prep class. My son has a twenty-minutes-a-day routine. But those twenty minutes can get used up pretty quickly now that school is here.

I think the best test prep is self-motivation. When my daughter was a junior in high school she really didn’t get the urgency of test prep. By the end of junior year, she understood and stepped up her game. Suddenly test scores mattered to her as she was beginning to narrow down the colleges she wanted to attend and saw their minimum SAT score requirements. So perhaps start talking to your child early in the year about which colleges they are interested in. Look at the requirements of those colleges with them and let the reality sink in. If it’s something they want (getting into a specific school) instead of something you want (them to practice SAT) then they will become self-motivated and the test prep will take on an importance. With my own experience, this shift was necessary.

According to The Washington Post, “In June 2015, SAT administrator College Board partnered with Khan Academy, a nonprofit education organization, to launch Official SAT Practice.” The Khan site is free to use and allows the student to connect to their College Board PSAT scores. Khan will prepare practice questions designed to support the students’ needs based on their scores. The student can practice with Khan at any time of the day and get instant feedback.

Research shows that test prep will increase the student scores by an average of thirty points. Some people argue that’s not enough increase to warrant expensive tutors or take time away from academic studies. Others argue thirty points may make or break your student getting into a top college.

I would sit down early with your child. Evaluate which schools they want to get into and compare their SAT or ACT scores with the average score for that school. Then come up with a game plan. Get your child involved in their future as soon as possible. Taking responsibility for their own actions will only benefit them later. And help them balance their prep time with everything else.

Top Ten Summer Activities for Students

The final weeks of school can be so hectic that planning the following three months often comes as an afterthought. With assignments, tests and early bus rides behind them, students are left to wonder, “what should I do this summer?”

We have the answer. Here’s a list of the top ten ways that you should spend your time this summer.

 

Explore the Great Outdoors

With flourishing trees and fully blossomed flowers, it’s arguable that nature reaches its peak in the summer.  Getting outside and exploring its beauty is best done by taking the time to walk through and embrace it. You can even make a multi-day adventure out of hiking by pitching a tent with a few friends or family.

Camping is an excellent way to take advantage of the cool summer nights and maximize your time enjoying the country’s wildlife. From dazzling beaches to soaring mountains, dense forests to vast plains, the U.S. is full of beauty calling for you to explore. The National Park Service has some handy resources for locating parks and trails near you.

 

Escape the Heat and Take a Dip

In most areas of the country, the weather is only suitable for swimming for a short period of time. Take advantage of the warmth and sunshine by going for a dip in the oceans, rivers, lakes, swimming pools, water parks or whatever you have access to in your area. There is nothing more refreshing than wading in the water on a hot summer day.

With so many public access points at most bodies of water, there is no reason not to visit the thousands of water-spots in the country.

 

Become an Expert on History and Culture

Museums act as a window into places separated by time and location. They provide the tools to educate people on the history of our predecessors and the world’s intercultural development through the ages. From instructive science exhibits to experiential art displays, museums have a lot to offer for those with an open mind and a will to learn.

Make a day trip to a local museum or plan a vacation around seeing multiple exhibits across the country. If you’re on a tight budget, do not fret. There are loads of free museums just a google search away. Check out National Geographic’s list of 20 free U.S. museums that are worth checking out.

 

Witness the World’s Wildlife

America is home to some of the best zoos and aquariums in the world. When looking into visiting a zoo or aquarium, you must consider the quality of the establishment. It is no secret that sometimes these institutions do not uphold the best treatment for animals. Despite the negligent ones, there are several zoos that do a great job caring for their animals. Read more about how to identify a good zoo.

Once you weed out the bad zoos and aquariums in your own research, there is an immense amount that society can take away from the high quality ones. They help conserve the extensive list of species at risk of becoming extinct, provide an outlet for scientists and animal-life experts to conduct research, and educate the public about our planet’s wildlife.

Something to note is that if you research different zoos and aquariums in advance, you will most likely find some limited edition exhibits that pique your interest, so start planning today.

 

Earn Some Cash and Build Your Resume

With all of the spare time in the summer, getting a part-time job can never hurt. Whether you are saving up for college or earning some money to help fund your summer excursions, it is no doubt that the three month break from school is a wonderful opportunity to earn some extra cash.

Aside from the financial aspect of getting a job, it is never too early to start gaining work experience. There is something to learn from any job you have, no matter how simple it may seem. Some examples of part-time jobs good for high school students include lifeguarding, working as a cashier, host/hostessing at a restaurant, or being a camp counselor.

If you already have a pretty firm grasp on what you want to study in your post-secondary studies, the summer is perfect for seeking opportunities such as internships or specialty camps that provide insight into your desired field of study.

When looking for a job later down the line, it may be beneficial to prove to the potential employer that you had an early interest in the field and have several years of experience. Even if you are unsure of your interest, these programs can give you an idea of whether or not it is a profession that you would like to further consider.

 

Declutter and Dispose with a Garage Sale

Summer break is a time for not only cleansing your mind, but for purging unused or unwanted possessions. Whether you’re going off to college in the fall or simply need a fresh start, garage and yard sales are a great way for you to declutter your living space and get rid of those belongings that you haven’t touched in years.

If you’re having trouble getting this project rolling, let the thought of earning a few extra dollars motivate you. All you have to do to start is throw open your attic door, have two boxes labeled “Keep” and “Sell,” and get to sorting. Pick a day that works for you and list your yard sale in the appropriate classified sections of both Craigslist and your local newspaper.

People won’t know you’re selling all this great stuff if you don’t advertise the event. Whatever you don’t sell, you can donate to local charities or even friends and family.

 

Explore Yourself through Self Expression

Ever have a hairstyle or cool outfit you wanted to sport? With three months away from your peers and teachers, it’s your time to explore yourself without fear of judgement. Summer is the perfect opportunity for you to test out new ways of expressing yourself and find out just what it is you have to offer the world.

This doesn’t stop at your appearance. With your spare time, you can sign up for a dance class, learn an instrument, stylize your room, join a sports team and so much more. Live your best life this summer and have fun finding yourself.

 

Visit Places Only Your Imagination Can Take You

During the year, it can be difficult to read for leisure when you’re constantly bombarded with reading assignments at school. This summer, take the time to read something for yourself without any deadlines or papers in the mix.

You might be surprised where your imagination takes you and what you can learn from a good book. If you don’t know how to find the right book for you, join a local reading club or check TIME’s list of 100 best books for young adults.

 

Have Fun on the Fairgrounds

Carnival rides and fair food are the pinnacle of American culture. Each summer, people travel from surrounding towns to go to the nearest fairgrounds and come together for a celebration of life.

If you’re on social media, you most likely have seen Ferris wheels and funnel cake flood your Instagram feed when the season rolls around. The truth is, it’s usually as fun as the pictures suggest.

Many of these fairs offer petting zoos, games, rides and other festivities perfect for a day of fun with your family, friends, or romantic interest. Look up county and state fairs that are happening near you and start planning your visit today.

 

Put Others Before Yourself

Don’t feel bad if you’re spending your summer focusing on yourself, but if you have the time, you can do some work for others. Completing community service leaves you with a feeling of fulfillment and a sense of achievement.

You can always log your hours and add the experience to your resume. If you’re a college-bound teen, volunteering your time is a great way to stand out to college admissions counselors and show them your quality of character. Read more about why volunteering is a key component in the college admissions process.

The opportunities are endless when it comes to deciding how to spend your summer. No matter how you choose to spend it, the important part is that you have fun and stay safe. Be proactive and make the most of your time this summer.

4 Steps With myKlovr That Will Help You Write a Compelling College Application Essay

The changing landscape of college admissions

Technology has facilitated many aspects of our lives including college applications. With The Common Application platform, it has become easier than ever to apply to many colleges at the same time. In 2015, According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 36 percent of first-time freshmen applied to seven or more colleges, while 10 years earlier, this number was only 17 percent. What are the consequences of this increase in applications? College applicants can ‘cast their net wider’ and increase their odds of admission. On the other hand, college admissions officers have to review this ever-growing number of applications. The average number to be reviewed is as high as 850 applications per admissions counselor.

These changes pose new challenges for the high school seniors preparing their college applications. Transcripts, grades, and test scores remain very important, and nothing can compensate for poor academic performance. But when there are hundreds of applicants with similar academic results like your own, how can you increase the chances that an admissions officer chooses your application among many? A college application essay may be the answer.

The importance of the application essay

According to the research that we conducted in 2017, an application essay plays an important role in the candidate assessment process. In general, there are three types of essay topics:

  • Tell us about yourself.
  • Tell us why you have chosen to apply to our college.
  • Write a creative essay.

Colleges ask for essays to evaluate students’ writing skills and his or her ability to formulate a logical argument, as well as to learn more about them. This task helps to assess the student’s overall fit with the college, along with understanding how a student can contribute to the college’s community and culture. Last but not least, colleges want to see how well a candidate can complete a major piece of work that assignments like writing an essay constitute.

When working on your essay, you have to make sure that it is well structured and written, factually true, and meets all the formal criteria that a college expects to be met. But an essay is also an opportunity to tell your personal story, engage your reader: the admissions officer. It helps to make you stand out in a crowd of applicants. Just imagine how many essays an admissions counselor has to read. Do not fall into the ‘dull’ category.

At myKlovr, we propose that you take four steps to be better prepared to tell your own story.

1. Discover what makes you special

College admissions officers are not looking for personal essays that are biographies or full of dates and places. They are in search of young people who will be successful in college and will make great contributions to the school.

We believe that everyone is special, but not everyone has discovered what it is that makes them special.

The research that we conducted among college counselors and admissions officers revealed 12 personal qualities that are associated with college success. Six of them, which we call interpersonal, are related to how we interact with other people (e.g. collaboration, empathy, leadership), and the other six, intrapersonal, describe traits in themselves (e.g. enthusiasm, critical thinking, perseverance). In the Personal part of the myKlovr Student Portfolio, you will find a short assessment where we invite you to reflect on which of these character features define you as a person. It is a great idea to ask others for their feedback. Remember that your parents, friends, and teachers may see you differently than what you think.

The objective of the assessment is to help you identify what makes you special and which personal qualities can constitute the main thread of your own story. Do not expect to max out on every personal quality. This is unrealistic and perhaps not very helpful when you want to tell a unique and compelling personal story.

2. Don’t tell, prove it

Admissions officers are skeptical by nature. They need to be great listeners but equally, they need to read between the lines and to separate ‘the wheat from the chaff’. They will expect you not only to tell them how great of a candidate you are, but to prove it and convince them of this.

How do you do that? With facts. Your myKlovr Student Portfolio has a few sections where you can capture your experiences, roles, achievements and recognition that you were awarded. These parts are there so that when you are writing your essay, you can look there for evidence that endorses your story. Claiming that you have great leadership skills is one thing, but explaining how you organized a group of fellow students to clean up your neighborhood’s  animal shelter after it was flooded is quite something else.

Sometimes, it is hard to remember these events when you need them. Details may be difficult to recall. This is why we encourage you to include all these events in your Student Portfolio. You will not need to use them all, but a well selected, relevant story can give your essay a lot of credibility and make it a more memorably engaging read for an admissions officer.

3. Engage through storytelling

Everybody has heard about the power of storytelling. Human beings pay more attention and better remember stories than data. In fact, our ancestors accumulated and passed knowledge on from generation to generation via stories; think only of the ancient Greek mythology or the Bible.

Once you have chosen what personal qualities will provide the backbone for your own story, and selected the facts and events to substantiate them, it is time to articulate your story. The ‘About Me’ part of your myKlovr Student Portfolio is there specifically to help you put together, practice, and elaborate your story. Start writing it early and come back to change and improve it as often as you want. Invite other people to read it and offer you their advice. If you do that early enough, you will be less nervous in your senior year.

We also encourage you to produce a personal video. All it takes is a script that you can write yourself, a smartphone (plus a tripod if you want to be really fancy), and a free YouTube account. Why would you produce a video? Just think about an admissions officer who is reading through a pile of essays. Wouldn’t it be a welcome change for them to check out an applicant’s video and see a real human face? Your video (must be under 2 minutes or otherwise few people will watch it) gives you an opportunity to connect with an admissions counselor, tell your story, convey your emotions, and ultimately be remembered.

4. Share your vision

Colleges look into their applicants’ pasts, but also assess their future students’ and graduates’ chances. Once a college admits you, they really want you to do well and graduate successfully. They care because a graduation rate. It is an important indicator that affects a school’s reputation.

Admissions officers would like to know what your vision of your future is so that they can assess if their college is the right place for you to achieve your goals. If you love animals and want to become a veterinarian, and they do not offer a relevant major, there would be high likelihood that you’d not be happy at their college and transfer to another one – something that colleges do not like.

In your myKlovr Student Portfolio, we have included a section entitled ‘Statement of Purpose’. We invite you to write about your future here. What do you want to achieve in life? How do you want to get there? What is a college of your dreams? What majors are you excited about? These reflections are important for two reasons. First, they will help you formulate your expectations, and secondly, you will be much better prepared to choose a college that is right for you. Moreover, you will be able to convincingly explain to an admissions officer why you are applying to their college and how you expect it to help you achieve your life’s destination.

Nobody can write your college application essay for you better than you will because an authentic and emotionally engaging essay has to come from a true source.

Q&A: How Students Benefit from Their Parents’ Involvement

We spoke with Kristin Sherlock, a dedicated teacher at the Academy of American Studies who teaches algebra and geometry to 9th and 10th graders, to discuss parents’ role in their children’s learning and development, as well as their relationship with school.

Q: Experts agree that parents’ involvement positively impacts their children’s learning and development. From your experience, how can a high school student benefit from their parents’ engagement?

A: There are so many different ways that a parent’s involvement can help their student. First of all, it’s just been my experience that whenever a parent shows a genuine interest in the student’s involvement—whether it’s academics, sports or you would hope both—the kids just drive to do better. When I was a student athlete, my parents cared about my grades. I didn’t want to get a phone call home for anything bad. I always wanted to get the awards on the sports team. So it wasn’t even a show off for myself at that age but it was really a show off for my parents.

When a student is also held accountable to their parents, I think scores are just that much higher. For instance, we have an online grade book at my school, and I know Mike (Kristin’s husband who’s an Assistant Principal at an elementary school) has the same experience. Parents and students both have different portals of access. The second a grade is updated, whether it’s good or bad or even indifferent if a child’s score isn’t changed, I’d hear from the parents via email or phone, “oh I was wondering why he didn’t do his homework”,  “can he make the homework up”, or “are you going to offer extra credit since his test score wasn’t as high”. It also gives parents the ability on the grade book to interact with teachers because they can email us straight from the grade book.

Again, I think it goes back to the accountable piece. I think if students are accountable not just to themselves but to somebody else like their parents—especially in high school—their achievement is going to be so much higher. Teachers have very high expectations. But if a student is surrounded by chaos in their life and they don’t have an adult figure in their life, I think it’s too much actually of us to ask him to just focus on school, when they can’t even sort out XY and Z at home.

Q: How should parents support their children on their education path while still allowing their child to remain fully accountable?

A: I think it’s really important that kids never get the “get out of jail free” card from their parents, like an excuse note that says “please excuse them from the test because they are not feeling good.” I mean that’s not life. Anytime that they’re given a “get out of jail free” card, and they don’t have to face a life situation of being held accountable, you’re not setting them up for being successful. Being a parent, I realize that. Being a teacher, I see that unfortunately happen. Sometimes there are ways that you can go back and explain to the parents. And most of the time, parents are pretty understanding. As soon as they see a zero for their child’s grade, they want to know why it’s there. Well, you wrote the note and said that they weren’t going to take the test today. They didn’t get what they needed to get done. And all of the sudden, their grade is failing now. So they ask what can we do to make this grade go higher. You always have to, even as the parent, the teacher, put it back on the kids. You can give them options and opportunities, but if they don’t follow through, they don’t get that extra reward and they don’t get the grade they wanted. Mike, would you agree with that? Anything you can think of to add to that?

[Mike:] The school that I’m working at has the gifted and talented, or the better students for the lack of a better word. The parent’s—if their kids are not getting the grade they want to see—first instinct is to question the school, the grading policy, the teachers themselves and so on. If a kid is maybe not doing as well as you would like, instead of just going immediately blame the school or the teacher, which is very very common now, ask what did you do. Did you speak to the teacher? Did you seek out some extra assistance? Or basically—it’s how the real world works—try to equip the student with the ability to overcome the challenges and have the success that they want.

[Kristin] Another thing to add on to what you just said is the fact that it’s a very weird position to be put in. As a teacher, when a parent asks you a question in front of the student about why something is, our first instinct as teachers is to look back at the student and say, “do you want to answer that or would you like me to?” We need to put it back on the kids because we know why that grade is the way it is. I guess we try to make sure it’s the student’s job to be accountable and to have their own voice.

Q: Should parents allow their children to make mistakes for instance when choosing a college or a career?

A: Should the parents be able to tell somebody where to go to college? I don’t know if I believe in that. I always get excited when my students say that they’re taking a weekend to go away with their family because they’re going to go visit a college. That’s always exciting to me because that student has a voice and option. If a student is making the decision to apply to and go to college and following through, then it’s OK if the student makes a mistake in a sense of maybe choosing the wrong environment, as long as college is not taken off the table.

We have had students in the past whose parents have said to them, “if you don’t go here, I’m not paying for this school”. Sometimes because of that threat the students would go to that school that’s not their first choice. The parents might not see it on their end, but as the teachers, you see these kids get so nervous when their acceptance letters and sometimes the denial letters start coming in mail. If they don’t get into the school they wanted to, and they’re forced to go to the one that mom or dad wanted them to go to, that’s not always the best situation. Yes, it’s great that they’re going to go to school and it’s great that college opportunities exist and it’s there for them. But ultimately, I think they need to be given the right tools to make those decisions themselves. We still have a lot of parents who have never been to college. In their head, sometimes it seems more glamorous. I think sometimes they’re afraid of the kids making the same mistakes they made. So mistakes are fine if they are learned from. But I don’t know if I think a mistake would be going to the wrong school, if it was the child figuring that out for themselves.

Q: What do schools expect from parents? How does this change when children go to college?

A: I think you’d get a different answer from what schools expect from parents if you asked a teacher versus if you asked an administrator. I think they’d kind of blend and go together. I think schools expect parents to be involved and there’s nothing more uncomfortable then when you make a phone call home and the parents say, “well, what do you want me to do about that” or “yes, you know so-and-so is out of control, I can’t really reign them back in.” That’s very unfortunate call to make because the parent doesn’t give you insight. It would be possible to loop their child back into being interested in your class. But you as a teacher know that the parent isn’t supportive and have to find a different way in to get to the kids.

So I think ultimately, as a teacher, you want parents to be engaged, and you want them to ask questions. My classroom door is always open for instance. So if parents ever want to come in and interact with their kids during the school day, they are more than welcome to. I want them to go see their kids play sports. I want them to ask their kids questions. I want them to check up and make sure they’re doing their homework. I want them to look at the grade book and ask their children questions.  If they don’t get the answers they want, I want them to feel comfortable to come to me as their teacher and say: “I asked my child this question, this is the answer they gave me. I need more details about it.” I want to have an ongoing dialogue. I want them to be open and affirming to who their kids are and accepting of what they’re doing, even when it’s difficult. I don’t want them to ever lower their expectations because I as their teacher will never do that. So if they’re at home and their expectations are continually lowered, it’s going to be a battle that I’m going to continuously fight. I want them to always be engaged in every aspect of their child’s life. And I’d want them to ask questions when the questions are most difficult to ask.

Q: What is your advice as regards parents interacting with school? When should parents get involved and when should they not? What are the best ways of their involvement?

A: I think if a parent is truly going to be in support of their child, they’re paying attention to every aspect of their academic life. I don’t think you just get involved when it’s a bad situation. I think you have to applaud the successes as well. Involvement doesn’t mean you’re hands-free until it’s a do or die time and your child is sinking.

I don’t know if there’s a time I would ever say a parent shouldn’t be involved. Schools should have an open door policy to parents. I think parents need to ask their children questions. I think they need to ask the school questions. I think PTAs or PTOs, are great places for parents to be involved. Unfortunately, those have also become very political at many schools. So it’s not always as easy to be involved in those. I’m having a very difficult time being involved in my daughters PTA or PTO because of when they hold meetings and the things that they’re doing. But it doesn’t mean it’s impossible and that I’ll stop trying. If there’s an invitation to an open school night, every parent should make themselves available to go. If you can’t, send them an email so that you’re corresponding with your child’s teachers.

Make sure you know the principal and the assistant principal by name because you’re modeling that for your child as well. So the more comfortable as a parent you are at your child’s school, you’re just setting your child up for more success. Definitely don’t get involved if you’re going to have a combative relationship. You don’t want your child to be in an environment where they’re always fighting against their teachers, their peers or the administration. But I think if you can foster healthy relationships, that’s just another relationship, another model to set for your kids that will pay off in spades.

When they get to college, they’ll see the way that they have been able to interact with their teachers in high school and they can take that responsibility and set appointments with office hours with their college instructors. That was one of the scariest things I’ve ever had to do in my English lit class from my freshman year of college. But I knew what was expected of me because I knew that failure wasn’t an option for me. But I knew that because those were the expectations communicated to me all the way through school. So if I was going to get a not-good grade, I needed to make sure I could explain why in high school and in college. So I made those office hour appointments and I guess I still felt accountable to my parents as well when I was in college. I was doing that for myself but also for my family.

Q: What are the most common pitfalls of parent involvement? What are the watch-outs?

A: As a teacher, I would say one of the most common pitfalls is a parent who’s not actively involved in their student’s life. One of the saddest and most difficult things is to try to work with kids in high school, whose parents are not involved in their life. They are either too busy or they have things going on and they’re not willing to come in for a meeting with you.

We as teachers, my husband and I, when we worked with a team of people, have sat in meetings with the children whose parents don’t show up. That’s a very hard situation and that’s when you become not so much a teacher anymore, but more like a parent figure to that child because you’re consoling them and you’re helping them understand. Often times they get angry or they get sad and you become that person they come to.

Another pitfall? Probably when parents are too involved. It goes back to the part of parents not holding their children accountable. Parents holding the teachers first accountable as opposed to asking their kids “what should you have done?”. By all means ask the teacher too if they don’t get an acceptable answer. If you are even the least bit organized of an educator, when a parent asks a question about their child, you’re going to be able to give them an answer. Maybe it’s not what they want to hear, but often times they could’ve already gotten an answer from their child. So I think those are that the unfortunate ways I could say that parents can be involved or not involved in the right ways.

Q: What is your advice for parents who don’t have college education with regard to supporting their children on their way to college?

A: Like I mentioned earlier, we’re still teaching a large group of children whose parents have never been to college, and some have never even graduated high school. As the kids matriculated credits and passed regents exams and got closer to graduation of high school, college became more of a reality for their parents. And the genuine excitement that they had, the involvement and the weekend trips visit schools paid off because we had so many of the kids go to college.

We had a student whose parents immigrated to the United States. His brother before him had gone to college and he was going to be the second person in this family to graduate high school and then go to college. His parents worked so hard so that he’d be able to go to a private school in Massachusetts. One of the things that I remember, that really got Frankie so excited about the whole process was it wasn’t just a school thing for him. His parents asked questions and his parents filled out the paperwork. His parents met the deadlines that needed to be met. His parents were interested in all of the FAFSA information. They came to all the college meetings with the students at the school. And that’s another thing that schools can do. Schools can hold college meetings. The more information that you can put in a child and a parent’s fingertips, the more exciting the process is.

You know, prior to myKlovr, you really only had collegeboard.org to go on and research colleges. It would kind of tell you from PSAT scores, and what colleges they think you might do well at. It’s not that it wasn’t personalized, but it wasn’t personalized enough. Anytime that you can personalize something for children, even when they’re still in high school and make it feel like a genuine, true, new, exciting experience, it’s just an amazing. All of the kids at my school are going to have all of their college applications in around December 1st of this year. That’s a week from Friday. And some of them are applying for rolling admissions and they might find out around Christmas or New Year if they get into some of the schools. And then some of them won’t get the letters they’ve been waiting for until maybe March.

But what an exciting time and I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through that process alone without your parents by your side. There are kids that go through that regularly, without their parents support. I just remember watching the kid in the Bronx whose parents would get more excited on every little level. When they get their financial letters, or their SAT scores, even for the third time in the mail, they celebrated it. Celebrations go far, college is something to be celebrated.

You can’t do much in life without a college degree anymore. You can’t even get a job at McDonald’s that’s worthwhile if you don’t have your high school diploma now. I think we as parents and as educators always want our kids and our students to do better than we did. I think of that when I look at my math classes everyday. I’m trying to give these kids knowledge that they can take and apply in a real world. Some of the knowledge that I have to be in part on them is not applicable. Some of them will never use it again except to take and pass a test at the end of the year. But my job is to make it exciting and get them engaged, even if it is something as trivial as a translation. They have to be able to just take an object and move it. But if I seem excited about it, about math, and it works with the kids. If a parent got excited about their school, and if a parent got excited about the college application process, and even got excited about taking them to school, imagine the future that they’ll have.

You know, I look at my girls and I think about it all the time. The hardest thing ever will be dropping them off to college. The best thing ever will be dropping them off to college.

Supporting A Family Member During College Admission Season

Thanksgiving is a time of family, togetherness, and food…lots of food. For adults, it’s one of the most laid-back holidays of the year (unless you’re the one cooking). For high school seniors caught up in completing college applications, however, deadlines, stress about the future, and upcoming midterms can put a damper on their holiday.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, let’s examine how a family can support one of its own during this busy, frustrating, and worrisome time. In this article, we’ll look at things both parents and siblings can do to support their family member’s journey to college. If everyone chips in, your whole family should have a great Thanksgiving and holiday season.

Why All the Stress? 

NBC News reports that “30 percent of teens reported feeling sad or depressed because of stress and 31 percent felt overwhelmed. Another 36 percent said that stress makes them tired and 23 percent said they’ve skipped meals because of it.” Below are some of the top reasons why your family member is ‘feeling the squeeze’ this week.

  • The Early Decision Jitters: For starters, many students apply early decision to their dream college or university. Though these deadlines are usually November 1st, the ‘what ifs’ going through a teen’s mind can cause a lot of stress. Think about it: in a few days he or she may receive a life-changing email.
  • The Regular Decision Race to the Finish: In addition to early decision, there are the fast-approaching regular admission deadlines, which range from December 1st to January 1st. This means that December, just days away, is going to be a busy month as your family member puts the final touches on his or her college applications.
  • The Midterm Blues: Finally, December is full of another common stressor: midterms. Even though college admissions counselors do not see applicants’ senior year grades when making their decisions, some colleges have rescinded acceptance letters when an applicant slacked off academically or got into trouble during senior year.

How You Can Help

Whether you’re a parent or sibling, there are lots of little things you can do to help your family member succeed. Let’s consider a few easy options:

  • Hire a Tutor. Investing in a tutor is an investment in your child’s future. Even in their senior year, college-bound students still need help with difficult subjects, especially AP courses. Having a tutor work with your child for the few months leading up to final exams will make sure that he or she is well-prepared for college’s academic challenges.
    • If you’re an older sibling home from college during Thanksgiving week, offer to provide the same tutoring assistance for free.
  • Do Some Extra Chores. If you’re a sibling, help your brother or sister out by doing a few of their chores. Call it an early holiday gift! Even if you can pick up the slack just a little, you’ll allow your sibling more time to focus on the task of applying to college.
  • Be a Shoulder to Lean On. Stress causes many college-bound high school seniors to feel isolated. Talk with your child or sibling about their frustrations, worries, hopes, and dreams. Not only will you learn more about what they’re going through, but the conversation should help them realize that people they love have their back.
  • Get His or Her Mind off the Stress. Most students have the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off from school. Use this day to help your family member get his or her mind off everything on their plate (And I’m not talking about their Thanksgiving meal. ;). For example, have him or her help with Thanksgiving preparations. For some people, cooking is a great stress reliever. There will still be work to do later, but a mental break will help them reenergize for that final push in December.
  • Plan a Fun Event for When the Applications Are Complete. Successfully submitting college applications is a reason to celebrate. Let your child or sibling plan a fun activity to commemorate his or her achievement. Planning this activity in advance will help keep them focused and motivated throughout the coming weeks.

Final Thoughts

Even with family support, a high school senior must still complete the bulk of the work involved in applying to college. Over the next few weeks, that’s their full-time job. So if you have the chance, lend them a helping hand. I encourage you to go above and beyond the suggestions in this article. Every family is different, after all. I’m sure that whatever you try will have a positive impact.

“And finally,”…(takes a bite of a massive turkey leg)…”Apy Hanksgibing!”

Thanksgiving for a Supportive Family

“At Thanksgiving do we have to talk about college?” Sydney asked in the car ride to school this morning. “I’m exhausted. I just can’t anymore.” I don’t blame her. It’s been non-stop college talk at our house since last Spring. I’m really hoping that by Thanksgiving, she will have finished her applications so that she can enjoy the rest of the year. But I do know it’s going to be the question on everyone’s mind. Because, let’s face it, college was a great time of life. And adults love to reminisce.

Her dad and I are very interested in her college career. We think college is super important and want to help her navigate through the overwhelming options. My thinking is that if her last year at home is dominated by the college process, then I’ll throw myself into it too. This way there is always something for us to talk about. We can help guide her, without pushing and talk about the future in educated ways. We like hanging out with our kids and knowing what they are interested in, so naturally we’re interested in learning about the college process.

I meet parents all the time who are hands off with the college search. Sometimes they don’t even know where their kids are applying. I know teenagers like some anonymity, but if you find clever ways to engage with them you can learn a lot. If they don’t want to talk about themselves, ask them what schools their friends are interested in. By taking the focus off your child, you might be able to find out what they are thinking and then the conversation might shift naturally back to them. I remember when my kids were little reading an article that suggested when your kids come home from school, don’t ask how school was. They will most likely answer with a one word answer like, “Fine.” But if you ask specific questions like, “Who did you sit next to at lunch?” their answer will most likely lead into something interesting that happened that day. I think the same technique can work with teens. Take the focus off them and and their ideas and feelings might eventually reveal themselves.

As we visit family and friends for Thanksgiving, I know college will be a big subject. College is a great ice breaker when talking to a senior or junior high school student. Everyone loves to tell college stories and it’s a fun conversation starter. Aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents get a twinkle in their eyes when they reminisce about their youth. Parents might tell a story or two that they have never shared before. My kids love to hear about old girlfriends and boyfriends. Even college heart breaks are up for grabs.

Listening to grownups telling college stories allows the kids grow up a bit too. It puts them at the adult table. They start to feel older. Next Thanksgiving the seniors will be the ones coming in from the airport with stories to tell. Their younger siblings, cousins and friends will listen more carefully and soak in every word.

I can’t promise Sydney that no one will ask her what colleges she is applying to. But I bet she will relish in the support from her family and friends and seek out their advice and take in their stories. It’s hard to imagine that next year she’ll be the one serving advice to the younger ones at the table. But I know she’ll have a bounty of stories and advice to share and maybe even a few leftovers.

The Pros and Cons of Taking Above-Grade-Level-Courses

As a high school teacher, I came across many students placed in above-grade-level courses. In some cases, students were gifted and needed a challenge. (My school did not offer honors or AP courses.) In other cases, students were put into a class because there was no other option. (My school was small, so this happened a lot.)

Starting from my personal experience as a student and teacher, I want to use this article to discuss the pros and cons of taking above grade-level courses. Though I am writing this article with you, the student, in mind, pass this article along to your parents and teachers. There are a few things they can learn from it, too.

The Pros of Taking Above Grade-Level Courses

I want to tell you about one of my first students. Let’s call her D. I first had D her freshman year, which was odd since my school usually didn’t accept freshmen. But D was a special case. Quiet and bright, she excelled in my sophomore English class. Due to my school’s student scheduling mishaps, she also took U.S. government, a senior-level course. D took these challenges in stride. Four years later, she graduated class valedictorian.

What’s D’s story teaches us is that some students can perform exceptionally well in above-grade-level courses. How did she do it? She had a few essential advantages going for her:

  • Academically gifted
  • Self starter
  • Motivated
  • Grit

Believe it or not, the top bullet is the least important. In my career as a teacher, I had many academically talented students who lacked the social skills, motivation, and resilience necessary to work to their real potential. In my opinion, grit is key to success. As reported by The Atlantic, grit is “shaped by several specific environmental forces, both in the classroom and in the home, sometimes in subtle and intricate ways.” More than anything else, D’s grit helped her succeed.

Sum Up: If you possess these traits, especially grit, an above-grade-level course may be right for you.

The Cons of Taking Above Grade-Level Courses in High School

As a teacher, I never had a student who could not handle the responsibilities of an above-grade-level course. When I was in middle school, however, I was that unprepared student. The Powers That Be decided that I was ready to take 7th-grade math in the 6th grade. I was not prepared academically, emotionally, or socially. I quickly found myself back in 6th-grade math. What does my story teach us? Just because a student is labeled ‘gifted’ does not mean that he or she can learn in an above-grade-level course.

Let’s break down some of the issues that students in this situation face:

  • Feeling alienated from grade-level peers
  • Feeling like ‘the odd one out’ in a class of older students
  • Lack of organizational skills (e.g., not using a calendar to organize assignments and due dates)
  • Lack of coping skills (e.g., reaction to performing poorly on an exam)

This isn’t the entire list of concerns you may feel. If you have the option of taking an above-grade-level course next semester or next year, write down your concerns and share them with your parents and teachers.

Sum Up: There are many potential stumbling blocks when taking an above-grade-level course. Choosing to take one requires much consideration.

If You’re Taking an Above Grade-Level Course

After my brief experience with 7th-grade math, I didn’t get another chance to take an above-grade-level course until 10th grade. Long story short, I and a handful of other 10th graders enrolled in honors chemistry, a course that up until then had been off limits to underclassmen.

Did I struggle? Oh yeah. But how I succeeded in that environment can teach you how to excel in your course. Let’s review some valuable pointers:

  • Ask for help. In honors Chemistry, I needed A LOT of tutoring from my teacher. To get it, I had to ask for it. There’s no shame in it, and asking for help is the first step toward a better grade and better outlook.
  • Enlist the aid of an older sibling. If you have an older brother or sister who’s still in high school, pick their brain about the best ways to succeed in the course. Even if they never had the teacher or course, they can still provide some valuable tidbits about organization and planning.
  • Roll with the punches. Even if the course is your favorite subject, you’re likely to struggle academically, especially at the beginning. If you fail your first test, it’s not the end of the world. All it means is that it’s time to follow the advice in the previous two bullets.
  • Join an extracurricular activity. To lower any feelings of alienation from your grade-level friends, join an extracurricular activity where you can interact with them. Even if it’s only one day a week, you’ll get more time in an environment of familiar faces.

Sum Up: If you’re taking an above-grade-level course, know how to reach out for help and stay connected with your grade-level peers.

If You’re a Parent or Teacher

As a parent, it’s natural to feel a swell of pride when a teacher suggests that your child could take an above-grade-level course. Go ahead and feel proud. But before doing anything else, consider the pros and cons covered in this article. Though bright, your child may not be ready for such a big academic and social leap.

If you’re teaching a student in an above-grade-level course, the best advice is to treat the student like every other during class. However, keep in mind that the student may need additional supports to succeed, such as scaffolding. Using these scaffolds for the whole class will not single out the student. Also, expect the student to need individualized guidance, especially during the beginning of the year.

Sum Up: Your child or student will likely need extra help when taking an above-grade-level course.

Final Thoughts

Taking an above-grade-level course requires a particular kind of student. Is that student you? It depends. If you’re unsure whether you can handle the jump, consider honors or AP courses as an alternative. They’re extremely rigorous and provide an excellent academic challenge. Also, excelling in these courses looks just as favorable in the eyes of college admissions counselors as above grade-level courses.

Finally, before making any big decisions, talk to your parents, teachers, or other adults you trust. They will provide you sound advice.

No matter your choice, good luck in the coming year!

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